My great-grandfather wrote lots of poems, and among them a small verse called "Apologies to Rudyard Kipling". It seems that the verse is a travesty on, or reference to, a Kipling poem, but I can't find which one.

My great-grandfather wrote:

Your dress may be new, and your weapons strange:
Tanks don’t get gripes, mud-fever or mange;
But the soldier’s art hasn’t changed a jot:
You must still wash and shave in a half-pint pot.

I suspect that if I knew the original, I'd recognize the meter or rhymes or so, but so far I've drawn a blank.


1 Answer 1


The allusion may be to "A Truthful Song". Two verses are of particular interest for the comparison:

  • "Your glazing is new and your plumbing's strange,
    But otherwise I perceive no change;
    And in less than a month if you do as I bid
    I'd learn you to build me a Pyramid!"

  • "Your wheel is new and your pumps are strange,
    But otherwise I perceive no change;
    And in less than a week, if she did not ground,
    I'd sail this hooker the wide world round!"

Both of these verses (each the end of its little section, and thus given more importance) start with the characteristic structure of "Your X is new and your Y strange", something that they share with your great-grandfather's verse. This alone may have been enough for someone familiar with Kipling's works to identify the intended poem, based off of the title of your great-grandfather's as extra prompting.

Beyond such word-level similarity, "A Truthful Song" and your great-grandfather's verse espouse the same overall idea: that while superficial details may change and the world may turn, the fundamentals underlying each occupation stay constant since time immemorial.

Kipling's poem gives two examples of this. First a "BRICKLAYER" and then a "SAILOR" who knows all the tricks of the trade comes up to some workers, stating that their name may be any of several ancient, biblical figures (emphasizing the never-changing-ness) and claiming that since nothing has really changed, they could pull off some great feat of the trade.

Your great-grandfather's verse skips all of the set-up and moves straight to the conclusion's two couplets. But, it hits similar notes. This time the occupation is the "soldier’s art". Something has changed: the introduction of "tanks" which cannot suffer problems of the human body such as "gripes, mud-fever or mange". Some fundamental thing "hasn't changed a jot": they "must still wash and shave in a half-pint pot".

Found by searching Google for site:https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/* new strange; this particular nicely searchable "COMPLETE COLLECTION" of Kipling's poems I found by searching for kipling poems.

  • The poem is from Kipling's book Rewards and Fairies in the chapter "The Wrong Thing."
    – MarkHu
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 21:51

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